Let’s face some realities. The Phillie Phanatic, while the single most hilarious mascot to exist in the history of humanity, is a giant muppet from the Galapagos Islands with a lamp shade for a nose that is meant to represent a baseball team. Now that the “Phanatic Around Town” art project has placed a bunch of identical, differently decorated Phanatic statues around Philadelphia, we’re going to like/dislike them. Here he is in Center City, the Free Library, and the Franklin Institute.
That’s the sound this thing is making in my head. It also is scrambling out of the woods, snapping off tree branches and stepping in rabbit hollows as it sprints, eager to spread its colorful message of love, but oblivious to the fact that its very color is what is about to get it captured by big game hunters.
Given the populace of Rittenhouse Square in the summer time–yard-sleeping hippies, activists handing out pamphlets, and business casual twentysomethings enjoying a trendy lunch–this Phanatic fits right in. He’s shaded like he belongs in a trippy cartoon short film you found in the back of a weird library without a catalog number.
He’s punky. He’s funky. He’s deeply contrasting the heavily green park behind him. And he’s welcoming you to enjoy the fresh air and 90+ degree heat before retreating back inside to the A/C and that cute receptionist who you think has finally bothered to learn your name (UPDATE: “No, but… you can call me ‘Efrem,’ if you want”).
But a closer look reveals that those deep blue splashes and swirls aren’t merely the work of a vomitting six-year-old after an attempt at digesting half a box of crayons (That shit happens). The goal here was “Starry Night,” or as title informs us, “All-Starry Night,” which, compared with some of these other statues’ titles, is borderline clever. At least they didn’t stick a “PH” in there anywhere.
The plain white jersey, I would complain takes away from the wide departure from a normal Phanatic–if you’re going trippy, go trippy–but in a sense we need it there to remind us that he’s still the Phanatic, not the Phanatic’s space disease-ridden cousin. As we learned at the Free Library “weird for the sake of weird” isn’t the best route to take if you’re only reasoning is “Because I’m an artist!”
I will call this a success. He clicks into his selected environment well, evidenced by the swarm of braided, snarkish hippies climbing all over him at any hour of the day. I had to bring my bat with a nail in it just to scare them off the thing for two seconds so I could take a picture. They smell terrible. But they’re a part of this madness, and now they’re got their own Phanatic to show that while, yes, we are often merely scraping them off the bottom of our shoes and ignoring their warnings about meat products, but they’re still there. And now there’s a colorful six foot baseball mascot to prove it.